One night, Le Pew took me to a rather chic restaurant behind Montmarte. We sat in the back room. I hadn't showered in two days and I was loud. All I talked about was the war. A snooty bourgeois couple next to us glanced over a few times, especially when I kept complaining, "Why didn't we invade Saudi Arabia?!" Beyond them was a rowdy table of late-20s-ish Frogs who periodically looked over to our table. When the birthday cake came out for one of the girls at their table, our whole room was invited to join in a Freedom version of "Happy Birthday To You." I didn't join in for obvious reasons. Rather than getting upset, the enemy asked our waiter to ask me to lead the room in the English version. Which I did. They clapped, laughed, cheered, and sang along. They thought it was so charming to have an American at their party.
At this point I concluded that intelligence had misled me. The American media had done plumb lied. Well, duh! The French aren't anti-American at all. In fact they just don't give a shit about the war the way Americans do. The war is the only good thing going for 95% of Americans, whose lives are a losing struggle with stress, debt and obesity. The French have 35-hour workweeks and universal health care coverage, which makes them a little less cranky.
Before returning to Russia, I visited my cousins. I forgot to mention: some of my relatives are French. One cousin in Paris works for an English-language news wire service. He's planning on coming out to San Francisco in July. He was trying to convince his mother to go with them.
"My mother's afraid to go," my cousin said. "She thinks Americans all hate the French, that they'll attack her on the streets if she speaks with her accent. We watch CNN and we cannot believe the propaganda. It's scary, I've never seen it before. It's scared my mother especially. I can't make her believe that the Americans won't attack her, not after watching CNN."
We laughed, but the fact is the chances of an American attacking a Frog are much higher than a Frog attacking an American. Even though (or maybe especially because) my cousin's mother is a genuinely sweet old woman, and sick with cancer. A ripe target for a true patriotic American.
I told him that I know people in America who won't go to France for the same reason. He and his mother laughed, then brought me to the kitchen and pointed to an apartment on the other side of the courtyard. There was an American flag draped over the balcony.
"We were thinking of putting an Iraqi flag on our side," my cousin joked.
I returned to Russia without a story. Our counsel, Morris U. Snideman, called me up a few days later. He only calls when he's in a good mood.
"Did you laugh at those surrender monkeys when you were out there? Those rude sons-of-bitches!" he said, bellowing.
"They were incredibly nice," I told him.
"Paris is dripping with raw egg. Those cheese-eaters can't wash the yolks off their faces, that's why they're so nice. They bow and scrape at your victorious American feet. Chirac's still picking the crow pie bones out of his gums. He's got a huge claw stuck between his front teeth. He'll never get it out, that shameless bastard. I love it. The United States Armed Forces just humiliated every punk nation on earth. Which reminds me: what the hell happened to you?"
"I was against the war."
"Are you joking me, Ames?! You and I were cheering this thing on for the last year! Your only complaint was about how long it took to get going. Why turn against the war after it starts?"
"I told you, after I watched Powell's speech before the UN, I realized, there's no way I can root for these assholes. They're swine. I wouldn't follow them into a Denny's, let alone a war against Iraq."
"You blew it by switching. I read your last issue. Now you guys look like bigger schmucks than the French."
"Blame Bush, not me. He and Cheney ruined my taste for war. They ruin everything they get their hands on. They'd ruin Mexican food if they thought they could make a buck off it."